Thomas Jefferson UniversitySidney Kimmel Medical College

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Away Rotation Primer

In years past determining whether to do an away rotation and how to go about getting an away rotation has been confusing at best. That is why AΩA and the Liaison program have teamed up to help you decide whether to do an away rotation and how to find and apply for one. This is by no means comprehensive, but instead a place to start. Along with this primer, your specialty specific advisor and 4th years who have already gone through the process are great resources.

Step 1: Should I do an away rotation?

There are no easy answers, but below are some pros and cons.


  • A great evaluation or letter of recommendation can help you with a "reach" program.
  • A chance to see the country and/or family.
  • A chance to try out a program you are considering.
  • Can be helpful if you are considering applying in a different region of the country, or want to "try out" a new city.
  • A chance to meet residents and attendings at the program (a great way to see if they are "your kind of people" and also nice to see familiar faces on interview day).


  • Away rotations cost money (ie paying for housing, travel to the rotations, application fee. . .)
  • An away rotation is essentially a four week long interview and a bad impression will be detrimental.
  • You will have to learn entire new computer system and program set-up.
  • When applying you often cannot get your first choice of electives and may have to accept what is left.

Step 2: Ok, I want to do an away rotation. How do I go about finding one?

Start looking early! While some programs do not look at applications until late spring, many programs begin accepting applications in February on a first come, first serve basis. To start you will need a tentative list of programs you are interested in and a sense of how competitive you are at the programs you are considering. Remember a specialty specific advisor, other physicians in the field you are interested in and 4th years applying in that specialty can help in creating a list and determining your competitiveness. Most medical Colleges will have a "visiting students" webpage where you can research an away rotation.

Step 3: How many should I apply to? Should I do more then one away rotation?

There is no easy answer. For most programs if applied to early you will be able to secure a rotation in your specialty though perhaps not in your preferred elective. But keep in mind for more competitive specialties, especially at competitive programs you may not always be accepted and should consider applying to additional programs. As for how many away rotations to do keep in mind your goals for those rotations, the cost and your willingness to "be on the road." Also keep in mind that turning down multiple invitations to rotate could affect your prospect of interviewing at that College.

Step 4: What does an application for an away rotation include?

Every program will have different requirements, but below is a check list to help you organize requirements from each program you are considering.

Away Rotation Check List

  • Make an assessment of your finances. About how much will the away rotation cost (application fees, rotation fees, housing, car etc.) Look at the student housing options early.
  • Away Rotation Application (generally only 1-2 pages with no essays).
  • Proof of Malpractice Insurance Form (can be filled out by the Student Dean’s office).
  • Proof of Background check (often required for Pediatric rotations and can be filled out by the Student Dean’s office).
  • Annual Physical (Can be done by Employee health).
  • Proof of vaccination and vaccine titers (Employee health can fill out forms and draw titers). These vary by medical College - try to get them done very early!!
  • Transcripts and proof of course completion (Registrar).
  • Letter of recommendation (A physician in the specialty you are interested in).
  • Passport Photo (many office supply and office service stores will take the pictures).

Important Final Note

A few years ago, a pilot program was instituted at 10 Colleges to create a universal visiting student online application called VSAS (Visiting Student Application Service). This program has been expanded to over 75 institutions. However, keep in mind some Colleges who participate in VSAS continue to have additional requirements beyond the common VSAS that must be completed in order to be considered. To learn more about Colleges participating and to apply using VSAS please visit the VSAS Web site.